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NYT Op-Ed: Foie Gras Producer Exploits Workers and Animals

A powerful Op-Ed by Bob Herbert in Monday’s edition of The New York Times paints a disturbing picture of the harsh exploitation of both animals and workers at one of the nation’s largest foie gras producers – Hudson Valley Foie Gras in upstate New York.

Foie gras, French for “fatty liver,” is produced by force-feeding ducks by jamming a metal pipe down the animal’s throat multiple times per day, for weeks on end.  This stressful and abusive process induces disease in the bird, which results in a swollen liver. Snooty chefs and foodies nationwide have allowed their bizarre palate preference for the liver to overshadow their empathy or compassion for animals, resulting in hundreds of thousands of birds slaughtered for the product annually.

Though animal activists have been successful in bringing to light the inhumane conditions animals endure in foie gras production, little has been written about the treatment of the factory farm workers. As is the case with most factory farms and slaughterhouses, the backbreaking, dirty, and emotionally and physically dangerous work involved in foie gras production often falls upon undocumented workers – who have few advocates and little legal protection.

The NYT Op-Ed States:

(I)’ve been looking at the plight of the underpaid, overworked and often gruesomely exploited farmworkers who feed and otherwise care for the ducks. Their lives are hard.

Each feeder, for example, is responsible for feeding 200 to 300 (or more) ducks — individually — three times a day. The feeder holds a duck between his or her knees, inserts a tube down the duck’s throat, and uses a motorized funnel to force the feed into the bird. Then on to the next duck, hour after hour, day after day, week after week.

The routine is brutal and not very sanitary…

Not only do the feeders get no days off during that long stretch, and no overtime for any of the long hours, but they get very little time even to sleep each day…

As is often the case, companies that abuse and exploit animals often endanger, overwork, and disrespect their own workers.